People who don't run often think of us as solitary creatures, pounding out the miles with only headphones for company. True, there's nothing for clearing your head after a bad day like a long run on your own, but running with a buddy can help you get much, much more than fitness from the miles you put in.
Many experienced runners have different buddies for different runs. So who should you be running with and when? Here are a few of scottishrunningguide.com's suggestions:
Your Pace Or Mine?
Running with someone even just a bit faster than you are will help develop your speed more than you can imagine, and often without you even noticing. Increasing your pace by just 10 seconds a mile can take a minute or so off your 10K time. Without someone faster to run with or iron-willed discipline, it can be easy to slip into a one-size-fits-all pace. Joining a club is a good way to find a buddy who can push you along the road to a PB.
Look around your workplace for running buddies, too. Many runners find that hitting the pavement with colleagues can be more competitive than running with friends; having an office-based buddy can also help you squeeze a few extra miles into your day at lunch or after work.
Running with someone whose pace is similar to yours can also pay dividends, especially if you train together for the same event. You'll be more likely to stick to your regime if you make firm plans with your training buddy. Knowing someone else is relying on you is often the extra push you need to get out there on a cold morning. If you need a break from all that togetherness, running intervals can help; you're unlikely to be the same speed at all paces. And although it's not obvious, running with someone slower than you can also work to your advantage. Encouraging a beginner buddy as they develop their love for running makes you feel good - pure and simple. Being forced to run more slowly can also help you stick to a slower pace for recovery runs after a race or long, slow distances in preparation for one.
The Social Network
Running can be about relaxation as much as fitness, and it should certainly be about enjoyment. There's nothing wrong with chatting with your buddy as you burn through the miles at an easy pace. You'll likely be burning more than miles, too: running at a conversational pace is good for burning fat. So, go ahead - run with 'the girls' or 'the lads' and enjoy catching up rather than catching your breath.
There are times when it's just good practice to run with someone else: at night, or in extreme temperatures; when you're coming back from illness or injury; or if you're planning on running in a remote place or on a type of terrain you're not familiar with. Having a trustworthy buddy with you in these situations can help keep you motivated, get you home safely or share the navigation duties.
Four Legs Good
While we certainly wouldn't suggest getting a dog just for running with, many runners find their pets great companions and motivators. Who can say no to that multi-mile pre-marathon run when those big brown eyes are staring at you? If you choose to get a dog, look for breeds suited to running, but remember, they may not be able to go as far as you, or run when you want to. Collies and Alsatians seem to be popular with off-road runners. Running with your dog also opens up the new pursuit of Cani-X, cross-country running competitions for teams with six legs!
Race Day Buddy
If you plan on racing, finding a race-day buddy is a good idea. Whether you run faster or slower than your buddy or even whether you train with him or her isn't important. What's important is just having someone to share the race-day experience with, for better or for worse! Having race-day buddies also makes it easier (and more economical) to car share, or while away the hours together on the train. Just make sure you get your stories straight when you're telling everyone else about how you got on! Entering races together also keeps the momentum going.
The Virtual Buddy
If human or canine company isn't an option for a particular run, make use of the 'virtual partner' feature many GPS watches have to keep you on track. Set your ideal pace and distance and he'll run his race alongside you; if you fall behind, he'll beep to speed you up, a sort of digital elbow in the ribs. On the plus side, a pixelated partner never gloats that he's beaten you across a finish line; on the down side, he brings significantly fewer cakes to eat afterwards.